Friday, October 3, 2008

What is Now and What was Before

Tranquility is a summer afternoon in my garden

My garden in 2008

When we signed the "Offer to Purchase" for our house in 2000, we told the seller that we did not want the empty plot adjacent to the house property. He laughed and said it was included in the purchase price. All those years ago, land was very cheap in our town and vacant plots such as the one we did not want, were actually more trouble than they were worth. However, obviously we were stuck with this neglected, overgrown plot, so once we'd moved in, I proceeded to improve the existing garden around the house and ignored the tract of land next door.

Two years later a gardening friend and I were walking along the street from her home to mine when she asked who lived next door to me. I replied that I live next door (!) so, as a person who never minces words, she said: "Well, why don't you make a garden there?"

*gulp* (my reaction at the time!)

Well, the seed was sown (excuse the pun) and the following summer my gardener and I promptly set about clearing away the patchy grass, removing the neglegted fruit trees and digging out the dozens of weeds. Because of a stone wall which seperated the property from the street, I could not bring machinery in to clear the ground and the process (by hand) was long and arduous. Six months later we had cleared away the grass and the fruit trees. The weeds took a lot longer to eradicate. For more than two years we dug out this obnoxius bulb-type weed called an "uintjie", i.e. a small onion, in colloquial Afrikaans. (Note: Afrikaans is one of the eleven official languages in South Africa) When you finally manage to lift this tough little plant, you don't throw it onto the compost heap. No, you crush it and place it in a bag to be thrown away, just to make sure it doesn't take root again. Two pomegranate trees, an apple tree and two beautiful old apricot trees were spared the axe. There were also two indigenous trees on the property: a karee (rhus lancea) and a white stinkwood (celtis afrikana) . These trees, which reached up to my shoulder at the time, are each a towering 8 meters tall today.

Below are scanned copies of prints taken when my plot was still, well, a plot. The quality is not good but if you click the photos to enlarge, I think you'll get a good idea of what the property looked like before I turned it into a garden.

Before we could do anything, we had to clear the plot of patchy grass, neglegted fruit trees and dozens of weeds. You can see the white stinkwood (celtis africana) tree in the foreground (to the right of the photo) and the karee (rhus lancea), with a clunp of grass at its feet, towards the back of photo.

This is what the plot looked like (in 2003) before we started to clear it.
A great deal of clearing had already taken place here


  1. Beautiful Jo, what you have created here - so much hard work but worth it in the end. How lucky you were to acquire the plot next door, even if you didn't want it at the time -I'm sure you're very happy to have it today !
    Lynda xx

  2. Thanks for your kind comment, Lynda; so many people have enjoyed my garden. Earlier this year my daughter-in-law held granddaughter's 5th birthday party in my garden: two dozen boisterous, lively children and not a stained carpet or a single crumb inside my house! Hugs Jo xxx

  3. How productive. Is a rhus tree bad for the skin? If it is the tree I am thinking of, we are not allowed to plant it here in Australia as it can cause blindness.

  4. I'm not sure about the dangers of Rhus to the skin/eyes, Hill upon Hill. However, I think it's wonderful that you're forbidden to plant exotic trees such as this one in your country. We don't have many of these prohibitions in our country and when we do, people tend to ignore them. Thanks for popping by. Hugs Jo


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